During our appearance at Paris Fashion Week Men’s back in January, we were invited by Telfar Clemens to attend his showroom and get an idea of his latest collection.
Telfar Clemens is a Liberian-American designer and creator of the brand, Telfar. Telfar is a unisex clothing brand, that was established in 2005, it is now sold internationally and encompasses the slogan ‘It’s not for you – it’s for everyone’.
Telfar took us one by one through his staple pieces in the collection and highlighted the goals behind each piece. He wanted,
“each piece to have a purpose, to be for any occasion of the wearers choosing.”
Telfar was open to sharing his ideas and inspirations behind his latest collection with us some of which were debuted during his successful Fall 2020 show in Milan at the Pitti Uomo. Telfar wants people to understand the importance of Black representation in fashion and this was emphasised by his choices of models in his runway shows and his campaign shoots. It is clear to many that theTelfar brand is about celebrating Black queerness and navigating spaces within that identity. To me, his work is that, as well as being a commentary on identity, American culture and consumerism. Telfar has been making unisex clothing from the start before it was even was a current ‘trend’ unisex fashion has been a part of the brand’s identity. In a lot of Telfar collections there are clear references to American culture and consumerism e.g. garments that feature Budweiser logos, and the collaboration between Telfar and White Castle, which is an American fast food chain. With American universities being an aesthetic integrated throughout the collection.
When Telfar designed the 2020 collection, he focused on re-contextualising everyday streetwear looks that were typically found in the wardrobes of everyday New Yorker’s. Telfar transformed them into entirely new concepts, by merging New York’s prominent Black history with what Black New Yorker’s wear today. His collection includes many cargo orientated garments and synergises different fabrics like knitwear and denim, whilst playing with shapes and silhouettes to create statement pieces. Every piece was unique and innovative and inspiring.
“I wanted my line to have an array of different techniques to create different effects and create texture, I look for definition and texture”.
“There are a lot of ruching techniques in this collection, I was looking at renaissance paintings for the past few months, to give me inspiration whilst seeing different things in Italy. I am basically Italian now haha, so yeah taking formal wear and changing it into something new with added volume and changing the necklines on garments, they are really similar to things I have seen in the renaissance paintings.”
“The prints on the clothes came from an artist in the Harlem renaissance, but we re-drew a lot of the art to make it our own, like this one says fuck that bitch and this one features the Telfar earing. I got the prints from my friend Brontez Purnell, he posted it online but I’m an idiot because my mind is blank right now on the name of the artist.”
His showroom of course was complimented by the famous Telfar shopping bags, ‘Telfar bag’ also known as the ‘Bushwick Birkin’. The Telfar bag is a faux leather bag which dropped in the 2014 collection, with an embossed logo and a T connected to a C which stands for Telfar Clemens. Despite the Telfar bags high demand today, the bag was not a success from the beginning. Telfar describes his struggles in the beginning due to economies of scale. It took time and years, when he made the bag, he lost money on every bag which was sold because he was committed to a specifc price point. It took years for him to get his bag to where it is now. Where many may have given up at this point, Telfars resilience and strong vision is what has landed him in this place of success today. I think the bag is successful for a multitude of reasons; It is labelled as an ‘It bag’, whilst most other, ‘It Bags’ in the fashion industry tend to be directed at only women. But the unique characteristic about the Telfar bag is that it is so evidently unisex. It doesn’t have a feminine or masculinesilhouette making it an accessible accessory for all, especially as it is comes in a range of colours. It is a really functional and stylish bag with an affordable price compared to its more luxury counterparts.
The Telfar bag was born when Clemens was just looking at everyone with their holiday shopping bags and was inspired. He got a Bloomingdales bag and modelled the bag to create the Telfar silhouette. Which is such a juxtaposition because the Bloomingdale bag is the epitome of functional and practical and nothing else. Telfar once said,
Telfar’s collection clearly demonstrates that he has so much to offer, He is a very conceptual designer, who has become inadvertently an industry-disruptor pushing androgyny. But he doesn’t want to be a political designer, he doesn’t want us to think about it at all. He really just wants to make clothes for everyone.
In today’s climate of social media competitiveness and underground possessiveness, people always want to believe they have done it first or ‘put other people on’. Always attempting to stake their claim and push exclusivity. But like Telfar states ‘it’s not for you – it’s for everyone’ and its refreshing to see a brand push this ethos. By effortlessly putting an end to reseller culture, which extorts the pockets of everyday civilians. Resellers hide behind the bots, who some may say have destroyed the fun in fashion and transformed it into some sort of bootleg economic trading ground.
During Telfar’s time in Paris he also announced the collaboration between the brand and GAP, a presentation of Lifestyle and Fashion. After building up anticipation during PFWM to celebrate the collaboration, the Covid-19 Pandemic like most things trampled on those plans like a reversing dump truck. The collaboration was first delayed and then cancelled in March as GAP struggled with store closures.
However, when one door closes an even better door opens; Clemens has an exciting collaboration with UGG coming up in 2021. The relationship between Telfar and UGG was born when Clemens deconstructed the UGG boot at his AW11 fashion show, his interpretation of the silhouettes sparked attention from the brand as it was coined ‘audacious’ and ‘bold’.
Telfar is definitely the gift that just keeps on giving.
Written by Nicole Lloyd